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Adventures in Fly Tying... July 2006


The Crackleback Wooly Worm

Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Photography and Video Production by Jim Stuard



Click for larger image.


Heddon lure collectors will recognize the word "crackleback" because of its use in conjunction with the color patterns of many of the classic Dowagiac artificials.  Some fly fishers may recognize the Crackleback as a popular dry fly pattern, attributed to Ed Story of Feathercraft fly shop in St. Louis.  I believe I first saw this name associated with this pattern in a book by Dave Whitlock.  One thing is certain, I've had this pattern as a regular citizen of my fly box for at least twenty-five years.  As a boy growing up in Massachusetts a  wooly worm in yellow or green with a peacock herl back was de rigueur for sunfish and perch.


There are times when this fly is a magic elixir for bluegill.  From the moment the water temperatures reach seventy-degrees until the humid days of late July this is my most productive subsurface pattern for panfish.  Through August and into early September I have my best luck on the deep-holding gills using classic northwest-style chironomid presentations.  For the first three months of the season this is the "go to" fly for me, though.


I prefer a heavy wire hook over lead weighting with this fly.  This includes using bead-heads.  A slow sink rate helps this fly work its magic. I always tie the Crackleback with an oversize dry-fly quality hackle.  The large barbs help keep the fly weedless and the stiff nature of the hackle pushes a good wake in the water.  It's my opinion that this combination of sonic presence and high contrast that makes the Crackleback easier for predators to find.  For an even more effective presentation, fish this fly behind the smallest silver Hildebrandt in-line spinner and hold on!  The combination makes  a great trolling pattern, too!



Hook – Mustad C53S, size 6 to 12
Thread – Black or yellow 6/0, 140 denier

Tail – red or claret hackle fibers - also try Antron yarn
Body –  Yellow, primrose, ginger or cream dubbing or chenille

Back – Peacock herl, four to six depending on the size of the fly

Ribbing – Small copper wire, for a lighter fly use black size A thread

Hackle – dry fly quality neck or saddle, grizzly or barred ginger


Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



1.   Mount the hook in the vice and attache the tying thread.  Wrap a smooth underbody to the point where the tail will be tied in, then wrap back to the midpoint.  Tie in the tail material and wrap back to the bend.  with this fly I like to stagger the tie-in points to get a curved back appearance.

2.   Tie in a length of small copper wire to be used as a rib. 

3.  Select a neck or saddle hackle.  Try to find a quality hackle with barbs about 1.5 times the hook gape at the widest point.  Tie the hackle feather in by the tip and stroke the barbs back from the hackle stem.

4.  Tie on four to six peacock herls, depending on the size of the fly you are tying.  Tie the herls on in front of the other materials, continuing to build a humped back underbody.  Wrap back to the tail tie-in point.

5.  Dub a thick body.  You can  use carded wool, rabbit or squirrel.  Small chenille or wool yarn works very well also. Pull over the peacock herls, but don't pull them tight.  Leave a bit of play in the herls so they don't snap when they get wet.

6.  Palmer the hackle forward in six or seven wraps. Some tiers prefer to make the wraps denser at the head/thorax of the fly rather than making them equally spaced. Experiment and see what works for you!

7.  Counter-wrap the copper wire to re-enforce the peacock and hackle quills.  Break off the copper wire after tying it down at the head to get a good, smooth finish. 
8.  Wrap a thread head, whip finish and cement.  The Crackleback is ready to fish!


Till next time, tight lines and gentle breezes…